BY DR. MALIA HOFFMANN,
ASSISTANT PROFESSOR, CALIFORNIA STATE UNIVERSITY, FULLERTON
As a former middle school educator, it was always a struggle for me to get my students to not only complete their homework, but also turn it in for a grade.
I got all sorts of excuses from, I forgot to do it, I lost it, I left it at home; I'm sure you've heard them all. The root of the issue, I believe, was they weren't inspired to do it and that they were too busy.
It was difficult for them to juggle all their classes, sports, and their social lives. It is hard enough for me to keep track of everything I have going on without the help of constant sticky notes and reminders on my phone.
I learned these helpful coping skills over the years and utilized technology as it has advanced. We can give our students a jump start on these skills if we try to inspire them to use technology while helping them get organized to make their lives easier.
Here are my top seven technology hacks to help manage homework better and make students’ lives easier to get organized and to complete homework. These tools might even make your life easier as an educator!
SETTING REMINDERS ON YOUR PHONE
There are many tools and ways you can incorporate reminders through technology tools. If you are using an Apple iOS device, the Remind app that comes standard on the device is quite amazing.
You can just use it as a basic checklist for things to do, or you can use the advanced features by tapping the 'i' info button after your item on your list. The 'i' opens options for you, such as: remind on a day, remind at a location, set priorities, categorize into lists, and/or add additional notes.
My favorite of these features are the reminders to be set on days and locations. I often think, when I’m at the office, I need to remember...” This feature uses the GPS and recognizes when you arrive at that set location and will pop up on your device.
Students should use this for big projects, set the reminders for one week out, or set the location for when I’m at home, remember to grab my book.
Using the calendar on a device also allows you to set reminders. Have students get in the habit of using their calendar by putting assignments on the day they are due. Set reminders days, weeks, or months before the deadline.
You can also set up a class Google Calendar, add all the students' email addresses to invite them to view it, and add it to their own devices. Then anything you add to this calendar will show up on their calendars. Google Calendar options work across platforms too.
I would talk about some reminder apps specific for Android too but I found this blog that does it quite well so take a look at it. They offer ten excellent apps for reminders.
USING QR CODES
Quick Response Codes are a good way to have a lot of information accessible through a barcode image. These are great for you to create and connect to your syllabi, newsletters, electronic documents, websites, and anything else that you want accessible on the web.
It’s a good idea to have these available on all of your handouts. Have students scan them with a free QR reader (just Google it, there are tons), the QR reader will store all past scans in the app. If students get home, can’t find the assignment or the link, they can just check their history on the QR scanner and pull it up.
No “I forgot where to find it” excuse. There are several free QR code makers available out there as well. I’ve used this QR code generator as well as QR Stuff - this one is more dynamic and has more options for the types of files in which you can connect.
ORGANIZATION WITH CLOUD COMPUTING
Google Docs: Hyper Docs, iLife/iWork, Microsoft Onedrive, this list can go on. If you have read any of my past blogs you know I use and tout cloud computing tools as my preferred option to productivity tools.
When choosing which one to use, I find that it really depends on what devices your schools are using; rather than recommend one over the other (however, I do recommend Google; you may want to read my earlier blog about life before Google to learn more about the G Suite).
Yet, each of these tools has pretty much the same capabilities - synchronous collaboration, automatically saves your work, and is accessible on any device anywhere. My favorite thing about cloud computing tools is that you never have to remember where you saved or put something; it is always available in your cloud storage.
The search features in these tools make it easy to find documents as well. If you remember that you were working on a solar system assignment, you can search for keywords and it will pull up every document that has those terms in it.
You can search by recently edited items too if that is easier. Using the cloud allows you as an educator to go paperless and provides students everything electronically, which will make everyone’s life easier.
MANAGING HOMEWORK WITH STUDENT PORTFOLIOS
Seesaw, or website creation tools such as: Google Sites, Weebly, & Wix are a great way to archive student work. They are all free (upgrades are available) and very easy to use. Of these tools Seesaw is the most portfolio type tool, not to mention very robust and dynamic.
The tool is both web and app-based, so it works on any device you may be using from Chromebooks, iPads, or laptops. It has embedded draw tools, capturing photos, and video cameras to integrate into what the students are creating. It connects the teachers, students, and parents all within the app to facilitate easy communication.
The website creation tools are also a great option for students to easily create beautifully dynamic portfolios hosting all their work from papers to multimedia files. What I love about portfolios is that they teach the students how to publish and share their work with the larger community.
Knowing that their work will be shared forces them to put forth more effort and create higher quality products.
KEEPING IT ALL TOGETHER WITH EVERNOTE
A great cross platform app that can be downloaded onto your tablet, PC, or used web based. I fell in love with this app at least five years ago, and my love has been rekindled with some of its newer features.
Evernote falls into the cloud computing category, but it is a little different than Google Docs or Onenote in that you can directly capture and embed audio or images within the app. Evernote allows you to add in reminders set on specific dates that will notify you within the app and through email.
You set it up like a notebook with individual notes within it. Each notebook or note can be shared with others; unfortunately, everyone with whom the notebook is shared through an email address has editing abilities.
You can, however, just create a public link and post that for your viewers. There is also a work chat feature that lets you hold conversations within the app for easy collaboration.
The only downfall I see to Evernote is that two people cannot synchronously edit the same document at the same time. Yet, Evernote is a great place for students to store all homework, create portfolios, and connect with others.
NOTE ORGANIZING WITH PADLET
Think of Padlet like a digital bulletin board. Students can use this as a collaborative brainstorming tool, a place to take notes, or host resources. Take a look at Padlet’s gallery for some fresh ideas.
Students can create their own or teachers can host one to have all students contribute to. Teachers can post daily reminders or homework on it so students and parents can always access it no matter where they are.
HANDWRITING RECOGNITION WITH NOTABILITY
This is an Apple iOS app only. I love this app because you can handwrite and sketch within it with a stylus or your finger. You can type into it like any other productivity app offering a lot of the same formatting features of other word processing tools.
Like Evernote, it allows you to capture images and audio within the application. You can download the app for your Mac or any other iOS tablet or mobile device. It is a paid app ($9.99), but I think it is worth every penny because I love the draw and sketch feature.
Many students prefer writing over typing, especially on a mobile device and this allows them to do that. It will also convert their writing into text if they want. It’s a pretty great app.
Those are my favorite seven. Did I miss anything? Are there features you love about any of these apps that I didn’t mention? What are your favorite tech tools for homework? I’d love to hear from you.